The NIDL’s 5th Birthday Bash

This week the NIDL team celebrated our 5th Birthday Bash, with DCU’s President, Professor Brian MacCraith joining us along with around 70 staff and colleagues. We were also delighted that a number of invited guests and friends of the NIDL were able to attend, including Seamus Fox recently retired Head of Open Education.

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3 Unts.jpgThe NIDL set out with a mission to be a world leader at the forefront of digital models of education to help transform lives and societies. Three separate but integrated units now make up the NIDL and our 5th birthday event gave us the opportunity to openly reflect on our progress in striving to realise this ambitious mission. More specifically, we took the chance to share a few reflections from over the past 5-years and then report some exciting new and forthcoming developments in the pipeline.

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Professor MacCraith traced us back to the history of how the NIDL came about and the launch on 28th November 2013 by Ruairi Quinn, Minister for Education and Skills, and Lord David Putnam, Ireland’s Digital Ambassador. He then referred to the successful launch of DCU Connected and Loop in August 2014 and touched upon a number of other early initiatives, including in 2015 the launch of Ireland’s first Horizon report on the future impact of digital technologies on higher education, and in 2016 the Next Generation Digital Learning Research Symposium hosted in The Helix to help build a stronger research culture in the area.

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DCU’s President also noted the appointment of Professor Deirdre Butler as DCU’s second Chair in Digital Learning in the Institute of Education and her leadership in establishing the Lego Education Innovation Studio and more recently role in the launch of the Mindcraft Studio in partnership with Microsoft Ireland. The NIDL’s strong relationship with Institute of Education staff was also reported as a valued feature of our work, with particular reference to the development of the new Digital Learning strand in the Doctor of Education (EdD) programme.


AE1A0069.jpgOther highlights noted by Professor MacCraith included the launch of DCU’s learning portfolio (Reflect) which now has over 12,000 students regularly using the platform. He also singled out the NIDL’s role in supporting DCU’s University of Sanctuary initiatives noting the launch of a number of scholarships for online study for refugees and asylum seekers. The establishment of the Ideas Lab in 2017 was also noted as a significant new development in the NIDL to help foster an even stronger culture of innovation in new digital models of education.

DCU’s President concluded his reflections by referring to some of the key facts and numbers over the past 5-years. Overall he reported that:

“The NIDL and its staff has become a highly valued feature of the DCU community. The achievements reported today validate DCU’s decision to take a national initiative to develop our leadership in this area of growth both nationally and internationally.”

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Each of the Unit Heads then shared some of their own brief reflections followed by Professor Mark Brown, NIDL Director. Mark referred to some important cultural differences and the importance of not taking ourselves too seriously and having fun along the way!


cu0a0145Professor MacCraith returned to the podium noting that the NIDL’s good work does not stop here. He shared a number of new externally funded initiatives, including two major HEA grants through the new Innovation and Transformation Fund along with a National Forum funded project to support professional development of DCU Connected part-time online tutors. On a related note, The President also updated staff on DCU’s decision to establish a Teaching Excellence Academy, develop a new postgraduate qualification in Learning Transformations and implement an internationally recognised Teaching Fellowship Programme in partnership with AdvanceHE.

cu0a0271Also announced was a major new European funded project (€2.2m) led by the NIDL in partnership with CASTEL and CARPE aimed at developing transversal skills and digital assessment strategies in the area of STEM education. Lastly, Professor MacCraith congratulated the NIDL for its work in continuing to foster a strong culture of research and scholarship. He reported the new Editor-in-Chief role and strategic partnership with the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education published by Springer. And finally that the NIDL will be hosting the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning in the Convention Centre in November 2019.

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In summary, DCU’s President reported that the NIDL has achieved a great deal since it was first established as a key initiative in DCU’s Strategic Plan. It continues to play an important role in helping DCU to realise some of our high-level strategic objectives over the next 3 to 5-years. He congratulated the NIDL team for their work, which was commended in last year’s Institutional Review, and finished with a number of thanks, including the valuable role students have played in challenging us to develop new transformative models of digital learning.


Mark Brown thanked the President for his strong support over the past 5-years and singled out the important role Billy Kelly, DCU’s Deputy Registrar and Dean of Teaching and Learning has played in the development of the NIDL. The event finished with Professor MacCraith cutting the NIDL’s special 5th birthday cake before participants then mingled over refreshments and a slice of cake.


Note: a copy of the supporting slide-deck used during the event can be viewed on Slideshare.